The Chinese of The World In The Gourd--Hu Zhong Tian Di is 壶中天地.
Huan Qing and Fei Chang-Fan
He was said to have had "the power of shrinking and collecting in an urn
mountains and streams, birds and animals, people, pavilions, terraces,
and buildings, boats and carriages, trees and rivers."
Fei Chang Fang was a legendary taoist and pharmacist in the Eastern Han dynasty.
Before he became a taoist, Fei Chang Fang was a petty officer in change
of a city market. One day, an old man with a gourd (which was called Hu
and often used as a container for wine or medicine by ancient Chinese)
sold herbs in the market, and when the darkness closed down, the old man
put his gourd on the floor, and slipped into the gourd to sleep. No
people but Fei Chang Fang saw this. He confronted the old man who
introduced himself as an immortal punished down to the earth for a
mistake and invited Fei Chang Fang to a feast the following day.
The next day, Fei Chang Fang was allowed to enter inside the magical
gourd where there were a realm with a sun, a moon, stars, a blue sky,
earth, mountains, woods and grasslands, flowers, temples and palaces.
The old man called this realm "the world in the gourd" and called
himself Gourd Elder (Hu Gong, 壶公). They feasted and drank from a wine
vessel that did not empty. The old man said his punishment was now
finished and urged Fei to follow him in search of the Dao.
Both of them entered into the depths of a mountain and, after several
tests, Fei Jiang Fang became a taoist and pharmacist famous for his
power over demons and for curing sicknesses.
Now the idiom of The World In The Gourd--Hu Zhong Tian Di is used to
describe a Taoist heaven, or a beautiful place that is beyond the dusty
Seekers after medicinal herbs go into the heart of the mountains
equipped with a staff to which they have attached a protective talisman,
consisting of a picture of the sacred mountains, along with a little
gourd intended to hold the fruits of their journey.
Now, in tales from the East, the market theme has been used as a
meeting place for adepts and spirits. Other hu-kung ("Gourd Elders")
besides Fei Jiang-fang are mentioned in Daoist alchemical lore through
the centuries. Another version of this story from the late third
century indicates that the old man magically appeared to Fei, coming
from "far countries" inhabited by barbarians, monsters, demons, and
Inside the hu vessel one only saw a world full of palaces of
The banished immortal herb seller replaces his home Isles of the
Blessed -- which have all the treasures of the mountain there contained
-- with his gourd, which also includes these treasures in their
The gourd is the container for drinks and herbs,
concentrating in this little place the essential powers of a remote and
isolated mountain. The narrowed opening or gate through which the adept
passes with some difficulty opens into another world, closed off and
completely sufficient to itself.
This paradisiacal, perfect, happy place
is far from this vulgar world, just like the miniature gardens that
play the same role for those who cultivate them.
This legend shows up in several other works, including a Daoist
encyclopedia of the seventh century (i.e., early Tang dynasty) which
contains a number of rituals or magical practices to which the legend
One detailed procedure allegedly allows one to be able to
transform a pint container so that it contains Heaven and Earth.
Another ritual lets one reduce one's size as well as reducing distances.
Were Fei Jiang-fang’s magical miniatures actually only detailed
dwarf potted trees and other landscapes which transported the
imaginations of viewers to other lands? Was his story indicative of the
potential of the miniature landscape? Or, were the earliest pen
gardens actually attempts to recreate Fei's works? And for how many
years or centuries might individual or sects of Daoists have developed
the cultivation of these tiny gardens as a memory aid and focusing
device for their attempts to be like Fei?
At this point we cannot credit Fei with originating magical
miniature landscapes: the earliest graphic evidence of these comes
several centuries later and shows much more primitive compositions than
are told of in his legend. 1
Double Ninth Festival
Fei Chang Fang was a legendary taoist and pharmacist in the Eastern Han
dynasty. It was said that he had magical power to cure various diseases
and was able to foretell the future, which helped him earn a great
reputation. Many young man took him as their teacher. Among them, Huan
Qing was his favorite student.
One day, Fei Chang Fang suddenly had an ominous presentiment, and he
called Huan Qing to him, saying: "On the ninth day of the ninth moon,
great calamity will strike your home. You must quickly tell your family
to sew a cloth bag and fill it with dogwood branches. This you must hold
tightly in your hand and ascend to the mountain top and there drink
chrysanthemum wine. If you do all of these things as instructed, you
will be able to avoid disaster."
Scared by his teacher's warning, Huan Qing quickly led his family to the
mountain top on the specified day. When the family returned again at
dusk, Huan Qing discovered, as Fei Chang Fang had warned, that all of
his chickens, dogs, and sheep, and other animals had been violently
Hearing this news, many people began to ascend high, drink chrysanthemum
wine, and carry dogwood branches on the ninth day of the ninth moon,
and year by year, these gradually become part of the Double Ninth